The Grand Inquisitor by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Grand Inquisitor is a tale discussed by one of the characters in Dostoevsky’s magnum opus The Brothers Karamazov. During the Spanish inquisition in the 15th century, Jesus descends into the city of Seville. People notice him and understands that he is indeed the Jesus himself. Jesus begins to perform miracle and even raised a child from death. Multitude began to follow him. The Grand inquisitor, supposedly the chief priest, have him caught and put him in the darkness of the prison and decides to condemn him to death, the next morning. During the night, the grand inquisitor visits Jesus in the prison and delivered a monologue. Grand inquisitor accuses Christ for coming back after having left humanity in a peril. Specifically the three temptation of Jesus by The Satan is revisited. The Grand inquisitor is of the opinion that when Satan asks Jesus to perform the miracle by converting stone into loaves of bread, Jesus refuses saying that men live not only by bread but by Thee word, is fundamentally wrong.
Grand Inquisitor further states that Jesus being the son of God misunderstood the real nature of humans. Supposedly by refusing to perform the miracle when demanded, Jesus purportedly gave the choice of freewill to humankind. Freedom to man is overrated. Freedom cannot be handled by normal people. The masses want to be told what to do. They need a purpose to live. They need their destination set. They cannot understand what absolute freedom entails. They will perish in the altar of absolute freedom. Men need to be fed to live. If there is no bread, men will die. Bread is more of an absolute truth than Thy Word. A well fed soul can only acknowledge and understand Thy word. Thy word basically is “I am the God and you will enter the kingdom of God through me and me only”. Jesus expects people to love him unconditionally because he is the only path to the kingdom of God. Yet he don’t provide the bread for this worldly existence.
A man need to look on to a miracle to feed his soul. A miracle when needed had to be performed when demanded. Instead of Jesus, it is the church that feeds him. And mass understand that church doesn’t perform miracle. “Enslave us but feed us” is the maxim of a commoner. The true freedom can be afforded by a small section of supremely intelligent people. Jesus never bothered to address the other majority. It is the church that gives them a God to look upto, while providing the daily bread. The majority of mankind is betrayed by the teachings of Jesus. And now Jesus has come back to upend the existing order, which will results in more chaos. So he must leave. The Grand inquisitor opens the prison door and set Jesus free. Jesus while listening to this monologue never utter a word gave a kiss to the dry old lips of the Grand Inquisitor and walks away.
Well this story is very profound. Rather I think about it, I couldn’t understand the Dostoevsky’s presupposition that by refusing to perform the miracles at the behest of Satan, how mankind attains freewill? I just couldn’t logically connect between these two seemingly disparate issues. In other words, Had Jesus performed miracles at the behest of Satan, Won’t the man still be free?